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At Amybelle’s wash & dry, clean your clothes and work history

SF Public Press
 — Aug 2 2010 - 10:32am
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Historically, many laundromats have provided cover for seedier operations such as money laundering, gang violence, or more recently in Oakland, marijuana peddling. But a family-run shop in the Richmond District is trying a far different experiment: free Wi-Fi and career counseling. 

Amybelle Capule, a slight, 5-foot-tall Filipino American in a business casual suit jacket, dispenses free resume advice amid the change machines and dirty clothes at her coin-operated laundromat at 3220 Balboa St. At Amybelle’s Wash & Dry, Craigslist helps to bring in four San Franciscans each week seeking the free advice while their clothing tumbles through spin cycles. Capule and her husband have owned the laundromat for about five years, but she just began offering resume advice in January this year.

Sitting with a laptop in the corner of the laundromat, Capule steers the customers around obstacles and common mistakes seen in many applications. Clearly labeled contact information is good, she said. Writing about qualifications in paragraphs instead of bullet points is bad. Also, she advises keeping the resume concise and avoiding repetition.

Capule has worked as a recruiter for more than four years, first for an insurance company and now at Electronic Arts Games in Redwood City. She also has volunteered with Jewish Vocational Services giving resume advice, making her a rare breed of counselor you can find outside college career centers.

“When I changed to EA Games, the other volunteer job was such a hike from Richmond,” she said. “Here, I can help out my neighbors and keep an eye on my 20-month-old daughter, Madison Ray Capule.”

Helping the Richmond District community has always been one of Capule’s priorities.

“I was thinking maybe there was somewhere else I could use my degree and still help out,” she said.

After she graduated from UC Davis around 1995, she began working for Families First, helping boys aged eight through 12. She wanted to counsel boys aged 13 through 17 but felt that her short stature was an obstacle.

“They towered over me is a better way to describe it,” she said, “How can you gain a kid’s credibility when they are towering over you?”

In human resources, applicants need help getting noticed, according to Capule. It's hard to stand out in a crowd when the pool is larger than a recruiter has ever seen in her career.

“Managers look at resumes as a means of communication and written skills,” Capule said. “If you have to have a second page resume, make sure it's well labeled.”

But Capule advises against two pages. “I have many years of experience in the same field and I still keep it to one page,” she said.

Her clients have included photographers, restaurant managers, the unemployed and people in search of a career change. Many of them report back that they’ve landed an interview or even a job; most leave feeling satisfied.

“I definitely benefited from her advice,” said Angelica Amaya, 38, a social worker who brought in a resume for her boyfriend, a restaurant manager in San Francisco. “Amybelle said to use paragraphs instead of bullet points, and I think I’ll bring in my resume next time.”

A version of this article was published in the summer 2010 pilot edition of the San Francisco Public Press newspaper.